What Does Johnnie Walker Taste Like? (7 of their Whiskies)


Johnnie Walker is the most widely distributed blended Scotch whisky brand in the world and if you’ve been to one of their many destinations then you probably already know what some of their expressions taste like. If not, then read on to find out.

Johnnie Walker whiskies taste sweet and smooth with flavors of vanilla, honey, caramel, spices, light smoke, light peat, pepper, oak, toffee and fruit. Most of their whiskies have no off notes at all, some are smokier than others, and the older or more complex expressions are even smoother and tastier.

Of course, every whisky tastes different, so the rest of this article will go into more detail about the flavors of the seven main whiskies that make up the Johnnie Walker Core Range. These are not just my own personal opinions, but a consensus obtained with the help of my friends.

And by friends, I mean anyone who would help me with this project.

(Note: The earlier a flavor appears in the coming lists, the more people detected it. All flavors were detected by at least two people.)

Woman pouring Johnny Walker Black Label into a cocktail

Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Years

Johnnie Walker Black Label is the original and signature expression of the brand. It’s a blend of up to 40 single malt and grain whiskies from across Scotland each of which have been aged for at least 12 years.

We don’t know the exact details of the whiskies that make up any of the Johnnie Walker expressions, but we do know they often include whisky from Cardhu (Speyside), Clynelish (Highlands), Coal Ila (Islay) and Glenkinchie (Lowlands). So if you know what those whiskies taste like, you’ll have a head start here.

What the brand says about the taste of Johnnie Walker Black Label:
“Creamy toffee, sweet fruit and spice … a warming smoky finish … sweetness wrapped in smoke …”

Flavors we found in Johnnie Walker Black Label:
Light peat, malt, smoke, vanilla, honey, pepper, grains, toffee, raisins, caramel, apples

As you can see, we found the sweetness (vanilla, honey, caramel), the fruit, the spice and the smoke (the smoke and peat are light – this is not a smoky, peaty whisky). The brand was pretty spot on here. We also found that drinking Black Label with ice brings out more of the sweet and smoky character.

Although we found lots of flavors as a group, each of us individually only found four or five. That’s because the Black Label is not overly complex. It’s an uncomplicated, drinkable whisky whose flavors are relatively easy to pick up. And although you can’t tell from our notes, we also found it quite smooth too.

Also, we didn’t find any off notes from the grain whiskies in the blend. Presumably that’s due to the 12 years of maturation taming any of the rough edges.

Johnny Walker Black Label being poured into a glass

Johnnie Walker Double Black

The brand calls the Double Black the younger sibling of the Black Label, and presumably that’s for two reasons. First because it’s much younger. Double Black has no age statement and while obviously, all the whiskies in the blend must be at least three years old, I doubt that many are anywhere near the 12 years of the whiskies in the Black Label.

The second reason is because they’re both a blend of malt and grain whiskies. The difference between the two is that the whiskies that make up the Double Black were matured in deep charred (hence the name) barrels to give the final expression a smokier flavor.

What the brand says about the taste of Johnnie Walker Double Black:
“Rich peat with dried fruits and creamy vanilla … smoke with the volume turned up … whiskies from the west coast of Scotland, chosen for their naturally smoky flavor and aged in charred barrels, come together in a full-bodied blend …”

Flavors we found in Johnnie Walker Double Black:
Vanilla, smoke, peat, fruit, oak, smoked meat, brown sugar, caramel, cherries, lemon, spices, char

Once again, we found everything the brand said we would. Double Black is definitely smokier than the Black Label, although this is still not a smoky whisky. It’s good as an introduction to smoky whiskies or for those who like their smoky whiskies to be not too smoky, but a little more smoky than the light smoke of the Black Label. If that makes sense.

Let’s put it this way, adding ice to the Double Black would not be a good idea as it would reduce its smokiness to a level that would defeat the whole point of this whisky.

Some of us found the Double Black to be more complex and flavorful than the Black Label despite its younger age (presumably that’s also due to the deep charred barrels), although it’s still not complex enough to be called ‘full-bodied’.

Johnnie Walker Red Label

Johnnie Walker Red Label is a blend of up to 30 single malt and grain whiskies with no age statement. It’s also the best-selling Scotch whisky in the world.

What the brand says about the taste of Johnnie Walker Red Label:
“… black pepper and cinnamon … honey cascading over smoke … it brings together whiskies specially chosen for their bold, vibrant flavors …”

Flavors we found in Johnnie Walker Red Label:
Honey, vanilla, fig, oak, apples, smoke, peat, grains, dried fruit, spices, toffee, sugar, caramel, pepper

The problem here is not whether we found the flavors the brand said we would or whether they were actually ‘bold’ or ‘vibrant’ but that while this clearly contains some very good whisky (it’s not disgusting or unpleasant – there are some flavors to enjoy) it also clearly contains some very bad whisky and combined with being very young, it’s dominated by the grain and has some off notes (although the light peatiness helps hide some of its rough edges).

The reason why despite that the Red Label is still the best-selling Scotch whisky in the world is because it’s meant to be used for cocktails and mixed drinks, and not for sipping neat where you‘ll notice the above-mentioned problems. The brand does say it’s ‘made for mixing’ and they’re certainly right about that. Red Label is perfect for mixing because it does contain some good whisky, which does have some good flavors and you get that for a great price (about $35 for 1L).

For more information about the best ways to drink Red Label and all Johnnie Walker whiskies, see this more detailed article I wrote about it here.

A bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label and a glass of whisky

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Here’s what the brand says about how Johnnie Walker Blue Label is made. It’s a blend of rare Scotch whiskies with a remarkable depth of flavor. Only one in 10,000 casks make the cut.’ When you translate that from marketing English into regular English that means it’s made from a blend of higher quality whiskies than the other expressions, with better flavors than them.

What the brand says about the taste of Johnnie Walker Blue Label:
“Caramel and hazelnuts course through dark chocolate … velvety smooth flavors … waves of smoke …”

Flavors we found in Johnnie Walker Blue Label:
Smoke, fruit, malt, honey, spices, oak, light peat, wood, vanilla, salt, caramel, leather, toffee, black pepper, dark chocolate, apples

You can see from our combined tasting notes that we found lots of flavors. More even than the brand mentioned. What you can’t see from our tasting notes is that we found these flavors to be delicious and well balanced and the whisky overall to be extremely drinkable and very very smooth. We found this to be the best tasting of all the Johnnie Walker expressions.

The only thing that spoils its taste is the price which at about $250 makes it far too expensive for what it is.

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

The Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve is a blend of 15 malt and grain whiskies, but unlike any of the other expressions it’s built around a single malt from Clynelish. If you like the taste of Clynelish whiskies, then you’ll like the taste of the Gold Label Reserve.

What the brand says about the taste of Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve:
“Vibrant and tropical fruit with smooth, creamy vanilla … made from whiskies chosen for their sweet, honeyed qualities …”

Flavors we found in Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve:
Honey, vanilla, caramel, fruit, smoke, oak, spices, chocolate, pepper

We found fruit flavors, but not tropical fruit flavors and we didn’t find them especially ‘vibrant’. Honey was the most common flavor we found but we didn’t find this whisky to have especially ‘sweet, honeyed qualities’.

But that’s just the difference between what the brand says the Gold Label Reserve tastes like and what we found. Aside from that it’s a great whisky. It has a lot of well-balanced and tasty flavors, and it’s very smooth. The lack of tropical fruit or honeyed qualities, unless you’re specifically looking for those flavors and characteristics, doesn’t spoil this whisky in any way.

It’s not as good as the Blue Label, but then it’s nowhere near as expensive either (it’s about $80). It’s better than the Black Label, and although a little expensive for what it is, it’s much less so than the Blue Label, making it a better gamble if you want to try a better-quality but slightly too expensive Johnnie Walker whisky.

Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Years

On paper, this whisky has a lot going for it. It’s a blended malt whisky, so while it’s still made up of more than one whisky, they’re all single malts and it doesn’t contain any grain whisky and the harsh notes they often given to blends. Also, all the whiskies that make up Johnnie Walker Green Label have been aged for at least 15 years and it’s bottled at a higher ABV than usual (43%).

What the brand says about the taste of Johnnie Walker Green Label 15:
“Rich wood notes with Highland’s oak and cedar … malts from the four corners of Scotland, aged for at least 15 years, it captures the distinct flavors of each landscape …”

Flavors we found in Johnnie Walker Green Label 15:
Light smoke, light peat, honey, pepper, citrus, vanilla, leather, malt, spices

Now, Scotland is the biggest producer of whisky in the world. In fact, it’s so big that it’s divided into five whisky regions that are each known for producing different types of whisky based on the natural environment in which the distilleries are located. Which is why you get different types of Scotch whiskies including sweet whiskies, fruity whiskies, spicy whiskies, peaty and smoky whiskies.

There is a bit of all that in the Green Label, but we didn’t especially feel that we could taste the distinct flavors of each region. Nevertheless, it’s still a great whisky. It’s sweet, it’s very smooth and although not overly complex, it has a lot of well-balanced flavors.

It’s also the best value for money of the entire Johnnie Walker range. Which somehow makes it taste that much better.

Johnnie Walker Aged 18 Years

Johnnie Walker Aged 18 Years is a blend of single malt and grain whiskies that have been aged for at least 18 years.

What the brand says about the taste of Johnnie Walker 18:
“… sweet fruit and creamy smoothness … soft spice coursing through dark chocolate. Richness caressing sweet fruit …”

Flavors we found in Johnnie Walker 18:
Caramel, vanilla, raisins, dark chocolate, orange, honey, nuts, pepper, spices, toffee

This is another great Johnnie Walker expression. We didn’t find too much sweet fruit in this whisky, but it was certainly sweet from the vanilla and caramel. There is spice and dark chocolate and lots of well-balanced flavors. It’s a very smooth and very tasty whisky.

And for a good, high-quality, 18 year old whisky, not that expensive either (about $95).

You can buy Johnnie Walker whiskies at drizly.com here.

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Josh Mitchell

I'm Josh Mitchell. I love whiskey and am working on increasing my whiskey tasting abilities and my collection.

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